More than 400 prisoners released from across the country to prevent outbreak of Covid-19Over half of those released were serving their time in juvenile correction homes.
A total of 409 prisoners have been freed from various jails across the country following a Supreme Court order to release people held for minor charges.
The Department of Prison Management said that 409 of the 418 who had applied for early release have been freed so far. Of the 409 people freed, 219 were released from juvenile correction homes.
The Supreme Court, on March 20, ordered the government to release prisoners sentenced for up to a year in prison for minor crimes. The decision to release the prisoners to minimise the spread of the coronavirus was taken at a meeting chaired by Attorney General Agni Kharel with the participation of Home Secretary Maheshwor Kumar Neupane, Law Secretary Rajib Gautam, Police Chief Thakur Prasad Gyawali, and chief registrar at the Supreme Court Nripa Dhwoj Niroula.
“The Department of Prison Management, upon orders from the Supreme Court, has already released 409 inmates who were serving a jail term of a year or less for committing various crimes,” said the department’s director-general Pradip Raj Kanel. “The majority of the prisoners released were doing time for minor crimes such as indecent behaviour.”
The decision to release the prisoners was prompted by reports that pointed to overcrowded prisons as likely hotspots for outbreaks of Covid-19.
According to Senior Superintendent Umesh Raj Joshi, spokesperson for the Nepal Police, to prevent jails from overcrowding, officials have stopped arresting suspects involved in minor crimes.
“Our personnel investigate cases without arresting the suspect,” said Joshi. “However, if a person commits a serious crime like rape, abduction, hostage-taking, human trafficking, money laundering, murder or torture, that person will be taken into custody.”
Section 155 of the 2017 Criminal Code allows authorities to release inmates sentenced for up to a year in jail by converting their jail terms into fines, said Kanel.
Jailor Arun Pokharel from the Dillibazar prison said that prisoners who have already served over 50 percent of their term, and who are senior citizens, are also eligible for release. The prison is preparing to recommend a list of such individuals serving their time at Dillibazar, he said.
The department is also making arrangements for quarantine facilities in prison should an outbreak occur, said director-general Kanel.
“Prisons have already banned visitors,” he said.